Tag: economy

Dual Wielding: is SWTOR a universe to live in?

Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”

Don’t miss out on Ironweakness’ take on the subject.

Review

The last edition of Dual Wielding was all about the “one or many MMOs” topic- as said, it’s a big topic for me as i don’t have much time to play and also divide that time by too many MMOs i play or i’d like to play. I think it was an interesting experiment and i really enjoyed what Ironweakness wrote on the topic at hand. Basically, both of us don’t think there is a “right” or “wrong” answer, but that the key lies in choosing one style or the other. Both come with distinct advantages and caveats.

Based on what we wrote and my own experience, i chose to have a 3 MMO approach- one being my main MMO that hopefully serves as MMO home, two other MMOs with their main focus being on casual and varied gameplay depending on mood. I’ll allow myself to change the two side-MMOs on a monthly basis, the main MMO on a three-monthly basis that, again, hopefully doesn’t come into fruition. The main MMO also needs to become a side MMO for a month after it had its time in the spotline and the new main MMO needs to have been promoted from the side MMOs.

And then i started thinking which MMOs could serve as a main/home MMO and was surprised to not find many candidates. Meanwhile, Ironweakness and i decided on our next Dual Wielding topic- looking at Star Wars: the old republic as possible MMO home.

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What makes an MMO sticky?

I hinted at what i’d call an engaging endgame yesterday – basically, it comes down to the use of credits or ingame gold in a broad measure and different ways to gain said gold/credits. This means that there should be as many different systems in place as possible- a bajillion different dungeons and raids don’t serve as engaging endgame for me. There should be credit- but not so many timesinks to accomodate different moods and session lengths. This is not the same; after all, i could make some credits in a very short session by flipping items on the GTN; if, say, one has to finish a main story questline to access game features, the smallest measurable progress in a session would be finishing a step in a quest. Sometimes, that takes a longer time.

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Also, an MMO home can’t be of the “play-to-finish” type- quite a popular style of MMO to be developed in the last years- SWTOR began as one, i’d consider The Secret World, Guild Wars 2 and Lord of the Rings Online among them, as well. Maybe even Elder Scrolls Online. Play-to-finish MMOs, to me, are games where you are provided very few ways to play once you finished all the zones. They’re still big- the amount of content available in Lotro, for instance, could keep me busy for years. In Guild Wars 2, this is debatable, as well, since you can do world completion, exploring, pvp, wvw among others. And doing dailies is always rewarded. So it’s not an exact science; different people will view different MMORPGs as being of the “play-to-finish” type.

Another thing that’s important is replay value- if done correctly, you could level different characters without having much overlap in content- World of Warcraft is great in this regard. Star Wars: the old republic isn’t, and that’s why they’re going to activate 12XP again on may, 4th.

Anyways, Star Wars: the old republic came a long way since its release and i wouldn’t put it into the “play-to-finish” corner anymore. I’m no expert on the game by any means, so i might be wrong on some points i’m going to make, but it is my impression for now that SWTOR is one of the best MMORPGs to call a home nowadays.

Can you live in a galaxy far, far away?

SWTOR still is a story-heavy MMO that funnels its players through quite linear paths of worlds, quests and- for the expansions- story. Once the story is finished, there are still reasons to continue playing for players like me, though.

Credits matter

With many MMOs and their wildly used different currencies, one has to wonder why they bother to give players ingame gold at all. I know there’s RMT, botting, exploiting and other things to be considered and alternative currencies are an easy way out, but if i don’t have anything to spend ingame gold on, it defeats its purpose.

In SWTOR, there are huge credit sinks in place now. From strongholds, decorations, the outfit designer and/or even buying things offered in the cartel market (the real-money ingame shop) on the GTN, there are many possibilities to spend hard-earned credits. I don’t know how many credits are considered “much” at endgame, but a fully unlocked stronghold costing 6 million credits and craftable decorations with their materials coming in at 100k credits each on the GTN sounds much to me. There are also some threads of players complaining about them on the official forums- in my opinion that’s a great indicator of some mechanism being in place that is actually healthy.

SWTOR: Taris

I know, i know, one shouldn’t talk bad about other players- but let’s face one thing that’s quite obvious when you look at the development of the genre in recent years; players hate it when stuff doesn’t come to them easily and they hate it when their progress is halted by something. For instance, despite open pvp being a thing you can avoid in ArcheAge, its existence was a hindrance to many. In EVE, high-sec life is entirely possible and i, personally, have never been killed, even when moving and mining through low-sec systems- players still don’t like it. Rift’s Rifts used to have a big influence on the zones they happened in- they were nerfed into the ground on the basis of “player feedback”. Rift was also much more difficult in the beta compared to release. Players generally like that things are being gated, but their tolerance ends when they feel they can’t play a game in the way they want and be rewarded in the ways they want anymore. All these things have in common that they are obstacles instead of rewards coming at a certain point.

So i’ll leave some links here that- in my opinion- show that gaining and spending credits is implemented in many different ways in the game.

I don’t know how crafting ties into this- crafting in SWTOR seems to be functional if a bit disconnected from your character- it’s the companions that do the work, after all. But you can get good gear upgrades if you keep it on-level; a thing that will become even more important when 12XP for story missions comes.

So there is an economy

With 12XP, i’d expect many players to start a new character or returning to the game. One major problem these players will encounter will be their gear- sure, you’ll get upgrades from the story missions, but it might not be enough, even when they’ll give out more commendations with the story missions coming may 4th. Some players might use the market to buy gear or crafting materials. So if i were to guess- gathering and crafting now and putting all that stuff on the GTN after may, 4th, will be a good way to make some credits.

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SWTORs economy isn’t a big thing in the game – the GTN is global, so there are no differences in prizes depending on regions. It’s still ok, though- i’ve read multiple times that inflation is being kept in check in this game. And if a game can make me (a casual newbie) think stuff like in the paragraph above, there has to be an economy of some kind. Combine that with the ability to spend earned credits, credit sinks that are far beyond my reach for now and you have what i’d call an endgame.

More than just story

SWTOR offers a great variety of content- if i’d like to relax, i’ll go with questing or stronghold decoration/planning, if i’m in the mood to play with others, there are enough Flashpoints. Then there is the on-rails-space-fighting-minigame for shorter sessions, and pvp both in battlegrounds and space. Not that i’m playing that type of content, but it’s there. You can also do achievements, search for datacrons and/or ways to unlock codex entries for the lore. You can raise the affection of your companions, equip your starship and so on. There’s a lot to do at level 60.

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It ties very nicely into different moods, session lengths, general involvement and different group sizes – SWTOR was mentioned quite often when Massively Overpowered asked for the best MMO to be played in a duo. The flashpoints are interesting group experiences not only with their content difficulty, but also in story-telling. The conversation options tend to be quite predictable if you play by yourself, but in a group, when rolls decide what kind of story your character experiences, it’s very interesting to see.

Alt-friendliness

Despite the fact that the levelling experience is a pretty linear affair, SWTOR still is one of the most alt-friendly games out there, even more so when 12XP hits, since you can just go for the class storylines without much overlap in content with your other characters. You only have to look at the numbers of characters veteran SWTOR players throw around when they have the opportunity to do so: double-digit numbers aren’t a rare thing, the legacy perks even give some “account progression” system to make it worthwhile and interesting to level more than one character. Roleplaying would be one reason to do so, but it seems alting is quite interesting for longterm SWTOR players.

The legacy sytem

The legacy system is a way to progress your “account” on a server. It’s slow; i’m still level 1 (well, i’m only level 25, after all) with level 2 coming closer. After you levelled up your legacy, you can unlock abilities for convenience, faster progress, faster travelling, unlock new races and so on. There’s a lot of stuff to be unlocked in the legacy system. I think you can unlock almost everything at any time you’d want if you were to spend cartel coins, but you can also progress through the legacy system and spend credits for these perks. There really is so much to explore here; i haven’t grasped the whole thing yet.

Strongholds

SWTORs version of housing puts you in appartements on a few selected planets. You can get decorations in a few different ways; from the ingame shop, by doing quests, certain achievements, crafting and so on. Dulfy has a great overview of decorational items and ways to get them.  I like that you can make your stronghold functional, as well: you can put in crafting resources (i tried it yesterday- you can collect from every node, even if you don’t have the crew skill needed, but there’s some kind of cooldown on the use, which is good), mailboxes, legacy storage and so on. If i’d look for a downside here, i’d say it’s a pity that the decorative objects aren’t really interactive. Sitting in a chair still is a rare sight in SWTOR; i’d like to water my plants, lie on my bed and so on- all of this has no use, but i think it would add a lot to the game.

Outfit designer

The outfit designer is SWTORs way of doing a wardrobe cosmetic gear system. I’m glad they dropped the restrictions on what you’d be able to wear (or is it only because my trooper can wear everything anyway?) for looks. It’s also a big, big credit sink if you’re going to make use of it extensively. Although i found out yesterday that the prize of placement isn’t fixed on 14k per item (it asked me to pay 1k for placing one item into one outfit), it’s still huge if you’re going to open and maintain all 16 slots.

 

What’s interesting is the monetization- SWTOR seems to go its own route in these things- in other games, you’re charged shop currency to unlock another outfit; in SWTOR, it’s optional- you can pay in credits or cartel coins. I think this is valid for pretty much everything since you can buy/sell everything from the cartel market on the GTN.

So, in the long term, the outfit designer is a thing to work on. Unlocking outfits, putting items in slots- it all has a credit cost attached to it.

The business model

It has to be said- SWTOR’s free-to-play model is often criticized for being more of a trial than a real option- i think that SWTOR’s revenue- i think it’s the second most profitable MMO out there- speaks for the game, in fact. After all, earning money is the goal of these games and they have to do so to provide content in a constant pace, quality and quantity. That BW wouldn’t be able to put out 8 class stories was obvious (to me, at least; that was one of the biggest reasons i saw for the game going f2p shortly after release- there was no way they could add storylines for 8 classes quick enough to retain their subscriber count).

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I think SWTOR is entirely playable for free (up until the expansions, of course). It is slower, much slower, in fact, and there are restrictions in place that make you cringe. But you can unlock it all (except for expansions) with credits and buying from the GTN. I’d go the “preferred player” route, though, by spending a few bucks, and then buy all i’d need to enjoy the game either with credits or cartel coins. What to buy, though, isn’t very obvious; in fact, it’s a pain just to find out what the best unlocks would be.

Fortunately, there is a great overview of account types and a list of suggestions on what to buy from the cartel market on reddit. If you want my opinion, i think SWTOR is pretty much a subscription game. But it is possible to play SWTOR as a non-sub game, as well.

The verdict

I have to say, Star Wars: the old republic is one of the best MMORPGs to call a home these days- the developers seem to make an effort in building up the universe and keeping it healthy, as well. The credit sinks, general prizing both ingame and in the shop, are indicative of this. As are the latest additions to the game from Galactic Strongholds to the outfit designer. Star Wars: the old republic is a great place to be at the moment, with the coming 12XP and whatever the next content updates are going to be possibly adding more story, variety and quality-of-life improvements to the game.

It also speaks for the game that, despite huge credit sinks and not knowing what the endgame really holds, it doesn’t seem very grindy. Sure, after your tenth character levelling alone might feel grindy because of the linear nature, but SWTOR doesn’t gate content (that i know of) behind the main storyline, reputation grind or something of this nature.

This has gotten very long- on a personal note; i plan on having SWTOR in the rotation at least until the end of may, and even then, i’m strongly considering to put it into “main MMO” spot after Final Fantasy XIV in august, maybe, if one of the downsides of FF14 (grind, content gating by MSQ) prove to be too much for me.

Ding, 100…and my kind of endgame

Post #100

This marks post number 100 that is going to be published on this blog, 59 of them this year. All in all, i think one can call this blog “active” and i have to say that so far, it’s been a great ride. I’ve had some ups and downs with the ups mainly being my experience with the larger blogging community- they’re great people that are very welcoming and help out, sometimes knowingly, sometimes just by clicking “like” here or there on one of the scribblings i tend to publish. The downs are just stretches of time when i don’t know what to write about or don’t have time.

Thankfully, this year so far hasn’t had any major breaks in posting. I’m just coming out of a time of lower activity due to some private stuff, generally not playing any one MMO with enough investment to warrant a post and other things. Right now, though, things are looking good since i started what i from now on will call “Project trinity”- selecting three MMOs to play each month and ignoring all the rest, even if they have updates or somesuch. I just hope i won’t be in a situation at some point where either an expansion (GW2) or a business model change (Wildstar, not confirmed of course) hits one of the other MMOs i’m interested in while i chose different ones.

Anyway, back to the round number of posts. I want to thank every one of you who made my blogging experience a pleasure- all those who linked to one of my posts, came here to comment, like, conversed in some way via Twitter and of course all who still read that.

My personal top highlight on this blog is the “Dual Wielding” series Ironweakness and i are doing in cooperation. The first edition has been great fun and i’m very, very positive that it will continue to be so in the future, as well. So i want to take that opportunity to thank Ironweakness for the suggestion and sharing this path with me!

Going forward, i’ll try and put some structure in place here on this blog, as well. Dual Wielding is one of these projects, the “Milestones” – series with its first post being published yesterday is another one- “Milestones” will simply be a project to share some ingame-progress i made, like another 5-level-span, for FFXIV it will be about the MSQ (Main Story Questline)…whenever i feel i have reached another interesting step in venturing through an MMO, it’s a Milestone, to me. Other things are on my mind, as well- guilds, roleplaying, community and ingame stuff not related to progress to name a few. We’ll see how it works out in the end, since i only have so much time to spend here and last time i shared my projects, it didn’t work out so well.

Again, thank you for being here, for making me feel welcome and maybe even liking what you read.

My endgame

Now why would a person that only reached max-level once in an MMO care about endgame? Why would a notoric game- and character hopper look for an MMO to settle nicely into? Well, we’ve been through the reasoning, i tried to make it work in one game or another and lately, i’ve been thinking about how to find “that game” in a different way. Even for someone like me, who doesn’t reach endgame quickly or ever, it is important to know what’s waiting at the end. The options on what to do- either delivered by developers or by making my own fun. And you’d be surprised (i was) how very few MMORPGs would really work as a home MMO for me when viewed through this perspective.

Credits. Gold. Pax. ISK. Call it what you want, but that’s where my endgame is. But if i can’t do anything with it (Pax), the currency given to us in an MMO doesn’t really matter. If your gold has but one purpose- for instance, to buy a sub for a month, it doesn’t work for me. So on the other side of the coin there have to be.

Gold sinks. Housing (Strongholds), Crafting, Unlocks, cosmetic outfits and so on- there should always be something i can spend my ingame gold on, to try and achieve some measurable goals in a way i like. See, Gold as endgame really is the only currency to allow us players to choose how we want to play by ourselves. If it’s dungeon gear, you have to do the dungeons. If it’s crafting, well, you have to craft. If it’s luck, you have to grind.

So gold it is. An MMORPG that i’d consider as a candidate for my personal “home MMO”, it needs to offer stuff in exchange for gold- and multiple ways to earn said gold. All those alternative currencies you gain by doing dungeons, pvp and whatnot might allow you to choose the way to play and get you rewarded- but it’s a tunnel system- you get rewarded for doing stuff you like with stuff that helps you perform better in said stuff. There’s a reason we use money as “universal currency” in the real world instead of giving tools to the handiman, computers to developers, frying pans to cooks and so on. Virtual worlds should follow suit.

When you think about that, there really aren’t that many MMORPGs that offer this- i could list a few. I know prompting for comments is a cheap move, but i’m really curious and might get some suggestions for games- so i ask you; which MMO lets you spend your earned gold/pax/credits/ISK in multiple (ingame) ways? On what can you spend this gold? How do you earn it?

So, about that crafting in Final Fantasy XIV

Sometimes you’ll read about the crafting in Final Fantasy XIV, and how it is implemented in a good way- to be honest, i don’t think there’s a much better way to have crafting in your themepark- but maybe it doesn’t click with you. Maybe you write a comment that you’d like to read more about that on a blog and maybe the blogger responds on the spot. So, before i might dive deeper into the crafting in FF14, let’s take a look at the reasons why i think it is special- and also, why i think you should craft if you’re playing Final Fantasy XIV.

It’s integrated into the game

Gathering in Final Fantasy XIV
Gathering in Final Fantasy XIV – you have options!

No trash

It all starts with loot. When you kill a mob, you’ll get items, like in any other game out there. The difference is- i don’t think there’s something like “trash” in Final Fantasy XIV. At least i didn’t encounter it yet. Everything i saw is either craftable, consumable or wearable. The only thing to sell to vendors i saw is a selectable quest reward you choose when you already have the other items.

Levels

As you might know, you can do and be everything with one character in FF14. I read somewhere that this isn’t the optimal solution, that it’s better to have 2 or 3 characters sharing all the available classes and jobs, but i can’t remember why. The gathering and crafting jobs in Final Fantasy 14 have their own level progression- and it’s a progress, alright. Now, i am pretty low-level still, but i can only guess how, for example, the gathering progress evolves in later levels- more dangerous mobs around the nodes, more hidden, rare materials and so on.

Quests

Yes, i know there are crafting quests in many MMOs. Rift has them, for instance. But what they grant is, mostly, adventuring experience. In FF14 you’ll level your crafting class while completing them. As all other classes, the crafting classes also have their “class story” quests- you’ll get one every five levels. When you reached level 10, you’ll be able to do leves, as well. And, of course, the grand company you join will have some tasks for you. Generally, the leves are considered the best way to level your crafting class.

Equipment

Crafters do have their own equipment with corresponding stats- they’ll help you in finding more or better materials while gathering and help with rising quality when crafting items. Raising quality is worth the effort, every time, because even if you don’t get a high quality item, you’ll get more experience the higher your chance for doing so is.

An involved progress

Crafting in FF14 is very involved. It begins with searching for the ingredients- in FF14, it’s not as simple as “in zones from level 1-10 you’ll get bronze, in zones from level 11-20 you’ll get silver” and so on. Sure, if you are, say, a weaver, there’ll be one spot to get your cotton bolls from, but the Botanist (the corresponding gathering class) can gather so much more- stuff for provisioning, alchemy and others, i think. So you’ll have to travel to get the materials for something you want to craft.

While crafting, you’ll use skills, just as you’d do while fighting. There are skills to increase the quality of an item, to raise your chance to find a high quality version of an ingredient and others. While this is relatively simple and something a macro could simplify even more, it still is something that makes you think. At least sometimes, for now, i’m using the same pattern everytime i craft something, but my guess is that this will change later on.

Hunting Doe in Final Fantasy XIV
Hunting Doe for beast sinews

There’ll also be ingredients you’ll really have to look for- yesterday, i needed beast sinews- i knew the guild supplier sells them, but i wanted to look for them, myself. I found out which animals drop them and went out, hunting. Here’s another thing- the crafting feeds the adventuring classes, too, because when i think about it, this hunting would have gone a lot better if i had a dps class ready for the task.

You can also just craft everything that’s in your crafting log- since you get a considerable amount of bonus experience when you craft something for the first time, you’ll get some progress along with the knowledge of how to make something and how/where to gather the materials.

Interdependency

Another thing that makes crafting in FF14 quite unique is the interdependency- you’ll need materials from other crafting classes. The best representation i found is this one. So, if you are a weaver, the Botanist will probably be the best fit gathering-wise. But you’ll also need materials from the leatherworker (who, in turn, need stuff from mobs and mining). Now, thankfully- as i find the “auction house” somewhat tiresome to navigate- you don’t need to buy everything from other players. Guild suppliers have what you need, at least up to my level. This also serves as a price check, i think, because you won’t find basic materials getting very expensive here, as you would in other older themepark MMORPGs.

You could, of course, try and do everything by yourself- if for nothing else, then for not wasting all the stuff you gathered or looted. That’s kind of what i’m doing right now- i put everything i looted on the bank to process it at a later point. But levelling all gathering and crafting classes in addition to the adventuring class? Yeah, talk about time-sink!

An economy

All in all, this leads to a working ingame economy. It’s not perfect, since i still found the dungeons to be the source of the best gear (for now, i didn’t produce anything in HQ, though), but it’s pretty close to what you can do without item decay, local auction houses and so on. I think pricing reflects that. I haven’t looked into the economy very much yet, because i have other things i’d rather do for now, but there are people who play the market in FF XIV.

Why you should do it, too

This is simple- to diversify your play sessions. As i said yesterday, there’s a lot to do and many different goals to accomplish in Final Fantasy XIV; you’ll get distracted a lot and maybe feel overwhelmed at some point. In my book, though, this is great! MMORPGs are not only about progression, they’re also about discovery and diversity- and it’s one of FFXIV’s strengths that there is a lot to do.

Finally, there’s housing in Final Fantasy XIV, and it isn’t cheap. I don’t think adventuring alone is going to net you enough gil to partake in these more expensive activities, so knowing about what sells and what doesn’t might be essential in this regard, as well.

 

Yes, switching weapons and not being able to fight might feel strange, and it is, since gathering and crafting become main activities instead of being something you do as a side activity, but also: you can do something that doesn’t involve fighting and get a sense of progression! If you’re bored of the quest grind the gathering/crafting grind might be a nice distraction- for instance, yesterday i gathered cotton bolls and took screenshots while listening to the first episode of the Massively Overpowered podcast.

So if you take on gathering and crafting, you’ll broaden your gameplay experience- in MMOs, that’s a good thing.

The Repopulation: hardcore servers

When i contacted an old gaming community’s leader about the Repopulation, something caught my eye: despite being hopelessly casual in nature and also with a few set-backs in the closer past, he wanted to join what they call a “hardcore ruleset” server in that game. I hadn’t made the research yet, so all i was thinking was “FFA pvp”- but it turns out it’s so much more in this game.

The Repopulation

PvP

Yes, PvP is harsher on the hardcore servers, looting is also possible, from what i understand, as is degrading of items. They’re taking the EVE approach, though, with areas that are not really safe, but close enough, thanks to “police”. The security status lowers the farther away you get from the capitals of your faction and will eventually be zero, which would of course mean that everyone can kill you. It’s possible to lose inventory or at least it will be lowered by one quality tier or destroyed if it reaches the bottom of this line. And there’ll be crafted “Biolocks” that can be used to make looting your corpse more difficult for other players.

So why, after asking the leader about it and questioning this plan, am i now in full favour of this mode?

Economy

There will be no global auction house. No, that’s not entirely correct, since you can buy stuff from the auction house globally, but there’ll be only local delivery. Also, there will only be local banking.

The Repopulation

You can put out delivery contracts and pay other players to deliver your goods from one place to the other. If you take this route, you’ll need to assign a value to your goods and need to pay the player who takes the contract at least 10% of this value. This player would need to make a security deposit that equals the given value and receive his or her payment upon as well as the deposit back upon delivery. There might be NPC delivery, as well, although it won’t be as fast and more expensive than paying other players- but this is still under discussion.

Of course, you’ll get better and more resources when harvesting in more dangerous areas. Also, skill gain will be increased there. There’ll be no skill loss upon death in any ruleset.

Fast travel

There are two options being discussed- remove all fast travel options from the servers under this ruleset or fast travelling without inventory- all items in the inventory would be lost if using fast travel.

I’m sold

First of all, i really like The Repopulation – on paper. I also know it plays like an indie game at the moment; it’s a bit clunky. But then again, i can live with that if the features are implemented in a solid way and there’s a player-driven economy making crafting and trading a viable pastime in the game. This is something i always wanted to see in an MMO.

I don’t really care for the PvP part, either, but as with the lower production quality, i’ll take that if the economy is as great as it sounds.

I have to get into this game soon and see what i can do to help my old and perhaps new guildmates to get a foothold into this game. To get there fast, i’ll first “check off” Guild Wars 2 from my to-do list and try to get the Elementalist to 80 as fast as possible- then i’m not under pressure there, anymore and can raise my Ranger slowly whenever i feel like playing the game.

While i am sold on the server ruleset, there’s another thing the leader wants to do: forming a rogue nation. As of right now, i don’t agree on that part, but i’ll have to do my research on that one, as well.